Why Do Designers Use Hex Color Codes?

Computer screens can display a vast array of colors. Instead of trying to remember a name for each and every tint, shade, hue, and everything else, there have been codes designed to tell the screen how much red, green, and blue to display in order to get the exact color desired.

Designers use hex codes for many reasons. One is that it is far more compact than others, so it makes coding simpler. It’s also more supported across various design needs, from web to print. Therefore, it tends to be more versatile of a system.

In the end, whatever color code a designer uses falls back on their needs, familiarity, and general preferences. Keep reading to find out more about hex color codes and why they are used in design.

What are Hex Codes?

Hexadecimal color codes, or hex codes, are a string of six letters and/or numbers after a pound (#) to denote the red, green, and blue levels in a specific color. This code has been used in HTML and many other programs to ensure that the color is exactly the same as intended. From a design standpoint, whatever color code system used is mostly based on preference, familiarity, and use.

This is how the six placements are broken down to denote color:

  • First two: How much red is in the color
  • Second two: How much green is in the color
  • Final two: How much blue is in the color

Hex codes are compact and can easily be put into a program to tell it exactly what needs to be displayed.  They’re most useful for web design and color matching, but it mostly falls back onto individual preferences and needs.

How are Hex Codes Determined?

Digitally made colors have a 0-255 scale that tells the screen how much red, green, or blue to display in order to make a specific one. Hex codes take whatever value that is and divides it by the number 16. The top number of the equation is the first digit, whereas the remainder is the second. If both of these are single digits, it is just plugged right into the code. If the number has multiple digits, they are then converted to a letter.

These number to letter conversions look like this:


These codes might be a little more complex to determine than some of the others, but they are very compact which makes them ideal for coding.

What Other Color Codes Do Designers Use?

Hex codes aren’t the only color codes out there. In fact, it’s only strictly useful for digital designs and coding. However, even when designing for print, some designers are simply more comfortable using them and will keep using them in an effort to maintain consistency. There are some other popular color codes however that might be used in place of hex.


RGB stands for Red, Green, Blue and is used commonly in much the same way as hex. However, unlike hex, it uses the whole 0-255 scale when denoting color. It is the most commonly used color profile in digital media, as what is seen is a mixture of red, green, and blue light blended together to make color. Therefore, it’s also often used in designs where a long string of values is not going to be such a big deal like it would be in coding.


CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key. Key is usually black, but sometimes is replaced with a specialty color. This is most commonly used in printed work, as all ink is a mixture of the colors. These colors absorb light, leaving only what is perceived by the eye. Essentially, it’s a bunch of tiny ink dots overlaid on top of one another to trick the eye into seeing more than four colors.


PMS stands for Pantone® Matching System and are 1,755 patented, standardized, solid colors. They were even the first company to have a comprehensive system of standardization in color codes. Utilizing the PMS system means that the color will always be the same in print and is often used in limited color designs where the color is more important than the overall design. Think the Starbucks green circle or that distinctive red of Coca-Cola.

How to Know Which Color Code to Use When Designing

When looking to design something, the first thing to consider is if it’s going to be for web or print. For web, color codes should be in hex or RGB. For print, color codes should be in CMYK or PMS. After that, it all falls onto what the program itself uses.

It is important to note that these colors don’t all need to be remembered. They are easily found listed out or color picked from the program itself or on design tools. Therefore, it’s easy to find them and then only the color needed is the one that needs to be remembered and standardized.


Designers have a wide range of tools at their disposal to create their designs. Hexadecimal color codes are widely used and highly versatile, making them prime choices for designers. They’re neat and compact in their RGB color denotation which makes them prime candidates for web design and code. In the end however, it is mostly up to the designer’s personal preference, their needs, and their familiarity with each color code system.

When in doubt, there are always easy to find color code lists and design services websites such as Placeit.net which can help suggest the perfect color combinations for every project, and keep them consistent across all pieces.